Please help me welcome authors Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto to A Buckeye Girl Reads!! They are here today to talk about their book The Duchess of Shallows.
Title: The Duchess Of The Shallows
Author: Neil McGarry & Daniel Ravipinto
Author: Neil McGarry & Daniel Ravipinto
A game is played in the fog-shrouded city of Rodaas, and every citizen, from the nameless of the Shallows to the noblest of the Garden, is a player or a pawn. And no one is as he appears.
Not Minette, brothel-keeper and obsessive collector of secrets. Not Uncle Cornelius, fearsome chief of the gang of brutes and murderers known as the Red. Not the cults of Death, Wisdom, and Illumination, eternally scheming and plotting along the Godswalk. And certainly not the orphaned bread girl known as Duchess. Yet armed with nothing more than her wits, her good friend Lysander and a brass mark of dubious origin Duchess will dare to play that game for the most coveted of prizes: initiation into a secret society of thieves, spies and rumormongers who stand supreme in a city where corruption and lies are common coin.
What was the hardest character to write?
Neil: Brenn, the ganymede Duchess "interviews" for information. Because he's much like Lysander – a young prostitute with wellborn clients – its easy to fall into the trap of writing him the same way. That's death to good characterization. We didn't want to take it too far the other way, either, by giving him some exaggerated feature or habit.
Which character surprised you the most?
Neil: Probably Baron Eusbius, who started out as this self-aggrandizing, nasty arriviste but then became something a bit more...and a bit less.
Dan: Eusbius is the closest to a direct antagonist that Duchess gets in this novel and, interestingly enough, he doesn't get a single line of dialogue. You learn about him through his history or his interactions with characters like the aformentioned Brenn. As we questioned some of his choices he became less a simple villain and more of a real person, just one whose weaknesses had led him down a path that could have cauied considerable harm for everyone involved.
Was it hard writing together as a team?
Neil: Not usually, no; in fact, it was quite the opposite. One of us usually will have a sense of how a particular section should go, and that person will write the first draft and hand it off to the other for review. Then we go back and forth until we’ve agreed on a final draft. Generally, I cut out about a third out of anything Dan writes, and he expands what I write by the same amount. I have a background in stand-up comedy (http://www.youtube.com/user/TrackerNeil), where brevity is the soul of wit, but writing fiction often demands more loquacity, which Dan provides. There’s usually very little friction in the process.
Dan: Working that way has really been great, because if there’s a section that just isn’t working for one of us, we can hand it off to the other and say “I’m stuck. What can you do with this?”
We’ve never had a problem with conflicts over the big ideas – the plot, our feel for the characters, the themes that come out in the story. Any issues usually come over very small details – most particularly the wording of a particular sentence, or how to spell a character’s name.
Did you make an outline before starting the book?
Dan: We developed the story from an RPG, so we had a basic skeleton of a story long before we ever put pen to paper. That said, as we wrote the book itself, the telling of the tale changed. Some characters merged, new characters arose, and some of the existing ones – like Eusbius – ended up deepening in ways we'd never initially intended. We learned not to get too attached to what we'd planned and instead let the characters and the world lead us in new directions.
What did you learn the most from writing The Duchess Of The Shallows?
Dan: We have a tendency towards understatement, which I think serves us well, but can sometimes hold us back. Understatement is all well and good when you need a light touch on the emotional tenor of a scene or in the description of a scene, but we learned we had a tendency to err on the side of secrecy over revelation.
Our later rewrites of the story included more of the central mysteries of Rodaas, and hints at what lies ahead for Duchess and Lysander. When I studied improv I learned that a secret held too long gets too big, and soon what readers are imagining is far more intriguing than anything the writer could deliver. In the end, we decided to get our reveals out there early and get readers thinking about what they mean, which we think is more interesting than merely speculating on what they are.
If you could put The Duchess Of The Shallows to music, what tracks would you choose for it?
Neil: Now there's one we've never been asked! I think the chase scene with Duchess and Lysander should have been backed by some kind of drum-heavy song like "We Got the Beat" by the Go-Go's. When Duchess steps into the Vermillion I imagine "Fever" is playing, probably sung by Peggy Lee.
About the authors:
Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto are, collectively, a computer programmer, afraid of heights, a former technical writer, a rabid Go-Go's fan, a board-game designer, a founding member of the Alan Turing Fan Club, an award-winning interactive-fiction author, a native Philadelphian, an ex-drummer, one heck of a party thrower, a pianist, from New Jersey, the holder of three degrees, an avid role-player, an improvisational actor, an uncle, a stand-up comedian, not particularly fond of flying, a video gamer, a lover of Halloween, a story-game/RPG developer, and an Ultimate Frisbee enthusiast. They are currently hard at work on the next installment of Duchess' story, The Fall of Ventaris.
Where to find the authors:
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